By Patrick B. Craine
MONTREAL, Quebec, October 8, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A pro-life presentation at McGill University erupted in chaos Tuesday after a mob of pro-abortion students were allowed to silence the pro-life message while university officials made meek attempts to intervene until the designated time ran out.
Ironically, following the event the pro-abortion protesters complained that their 'right to assemble' was violated.
The videotaped presentation, entitled 'Echoes of the Holocaust,' was given by the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform's Jose Ruba and hosted by McGill University's Choose Life club. The talk aimed to draw a parallel between past genocidal atrocities and abortion. The entire ordeal is now available on YouTube.
As Ruba began to speak, a woman in the audience stood up and told him that he was not welcome. A group then began banging on desks and shouting, “Please go! Please go!”
After Ruba explained to the protesters that he would like to hear their side of the debate, one of them shot back, “It's not a debate!” Another said, “We don't need hate speech at our university.”
Ruba began displaying images on the screen, prompting the mob to take over the front of the room and block them. Smiling and laughing as they prevented Ruba from speaking, they made noise in a variety of ways, such as singing children's songs and telling jokes. At one point, they even sang 'Happy Birthday' to abortion, in English and French.
Security asked the protesters to be quiet or leave, but when the protesters refused, security backed off. They intervened occasionally as protesters stood on tables, grabbed at Ruba's written materials, or fiddled with equipment.
The police eventually arrived (see video 8 of 19), and after speaking with the students, the officer gave them five minutes to stand down or leave. Two were arrested and the rest joined the audience, mostly gathering to one side.
Ruba was able to deliver the first thirty minutes of his presentation, but the mob stood and continued yelling at him as he made every point.
When the designated time ran out, Choose Life founder and president Natalie Fohl ended the event. Ruba had been able to discuss past genocides such as the Holocaust, and those in Armenia and Cambodia, but had not had the opportunity yet to draw the connection with abortion.
Despite the two arrests, CTV reports that the two protesters were released and no charges were laid. In fact, the protesters have complained that their rights were infringed by police having been called to break up the protest. According to Student Society of McGill University's (SSMU) Equity Commissioner Jonathan Hann, “They feel their right to assemble has been violated, and they were treated unjustly and unfairly because of it,” reports the McGill Daily,
The SSMU passed a motion last week by a vote of 25-2-2 to censure the event, seek its cancellation by the university, and refuse funding to Choose Life should the group proceed despite the censure.
The SSMU executive issued an open letter yesterday in reaction to Tuesday night's presentation, condemning the university for allowing the event to happen despite SSMU's censure.
“Vulnerable students tried to communicate their concerns to the University through the available channels: the SSMU executive, SSMU Council, AUS [Arts Undergraduate Society] Council, the McGill Tribune, and The McGill Daily,” it reads. “There were no other avenues through which to stop this event, which they deemed as victimizing, offensive, and stifling of educated debate, from happening.”
“Furthermore it is unfair to expect these student protesters to calmly watch a presentation and engage with a speaker when such a presentation would make them feel violated, demonized, and silenced,” they continued. “This event created a hostile environment and should not have been permitted. It is possibly most disappointing that when students peacefully engaged in a public response to this hostile environment, they were removed through a police intervention.”
Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson, who had defended Choose Life's right to have Ruba speak, stood his ground, insisting that the university “want[s] to foster debate,” reports McGill Daily. “We do not want to restrict the expression of ideas,” he said. “As I said to SSMU when I was asked to intervene and cancel the event, I said 'Look, debate free of constraint is important as long as the discourse remains civil, does not violate a law, or McGill's code of conduct and disciplinary procedures'.”
“[The event] was scheduled in a room that was not a public space [and] not in an open public area,” he continued. “The publicity of the event advised individuals of the nature of the graphic imagery, and the graphic imagery was confined to the room. So in that sense, I felt the event was an appropriate event.”
The SSMU is hosting a 'Controversial Events Townhall' meeting with Mendelson this evening. It will be an open forum in which students will discuss the question: “How should the SSMU and McGill decide what events should and should not be allowed in the Shatner Building and on campus?”
See the footage from the event.
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